Thursday, June 23, 2011

Compass Tradition: Recognizing the Application of the Art of War (and other Strategic) Principles in the Movies

During our off-hours, some of us occasionally spent some of our time observing how the "Art of War" strategic principles are being used in certain action movies (and in political-economic and social matters). In our review session, we also discussed whether the strategic implementation could have been improved.

Recently, the 13 Assassins movie was one of few films that indirectly shows how a battle is strategized and fought from the perspective of the Art of War essay.

This movie never ever mentioned anything that relates to the Art of War . We would only presumed that the chief assassin was a devotee of the Sunzi's classic. The movie quietly preached its principles without ever mentioning it. That is considered to be the way of all ways.

Serious Art of War (AoW) followers can see some of the terrain traps and the strategic leadership errors that Sunzi warned his readers about. They would also see how strategic power can be created through good strategic assessment, the positioning of the strategic power through planning and preparation and the influencing of of their power.

In this movie, the underdog prevailed over the odds of grand numbers by doing the following:
  • assessing the terrain;
  • positioning themselves ahead of the opposition; and
  • influencing them with their strategic power.
The Process of Assess
The protagonist and his team assessed the configuration of terrain, the behavior of the target and the many possible scenarios that could happened.

The Process of Position
Once the assessment was completed,. they built a plan and transformed their arsenal of various strategic factors toward a small but tangible state of strategic power (or strategic advantage).

The Process of Influence
Proper pre-positioning enabled them to influence their target toward a circumstance of implementing poor strategic decisions.

(from Magnet Releasing)
Yusuke Iseya and Takayuki Yamada in '13 Assassins.

Click here for a video trailer and a very good review from the Wall Street Journal. NY Times also provided a well-written review on this movie.

Notes from the Compass Desk
Observe how the fisherman analogy was subtly utilized in this film and how the chief assassin used it against the targeted antagonist. (This concept of baiting and luring the target into a trap is quite popular with ancient Chinese strategists and modern business practices.)

Also, observe how the chief assassins re-configured the terrain into their framework of strategic power.

To the strategy aficionados, we highly recommend this movie. Be aware that it is quite violent and bloody.

Side note: You can also find the various strategic and tactical principles embedded in the Red Cliff movie. We also highly recommended the classic movie titled Seven Samurai.

Final Notes
Whether you are in a competing or cooperating situation, always follow these three Compass rules:
  • Always assess the Big Tangible Picture before positioning and influencing.
  • Identify and comprehend the risks behind the various advantageous and disadvantageous factors within the Big Tangible Picture.
  • Always know the small points, the urgent points and the big points of your situation
By assessing properly, one can decide on whether "the act of subjugating the predominant paradigm" of the target is possible.

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